MERO SCHMIDLIN (UK) PLC are delighted to be part of the construction team on the award winning WWF, HQ project in Woking. Hopkins Architects picked up one of the RIBA South East Region awards for the stunning project which has also secured a BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ accreditation.
The Living Planet Centre is the new UK HQ for the World Wildlife Foundation and the brief for its design was inextricably linked to the ethos and aspirations of the client. Sustainability was at the forefront of every decision in not only the design but also the whole procurement process. The Raised Access Flooring System became a very integral part of the design not only with regard to its ‘Green’ credentials but also in meeting a host of challenges posed by the proposed site conditions.
The building was designed by the world renown Hopkins Architects with the aim of achieving the highest possible BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ rating. Particular attention was paid to the sourcing of the materials and as timber was used in abundance within the building, strict criteria with regards to Full Stewardship Council (FSC) certification was required within the Main Contractor’s Supply Chain. The System from MERO-SCHMIDLIN (UK) PLC was the only Raised Access Flooring System under consideration which met all of the strict criteria with regards to the procurement brief and also contained a high element of recycled content in its boards, pedestals and in many cases the eventual floor covering itself.
With a fair faced concrete plinth being formed around the car park it enabled very cool air to lay beneath the building and as such ‘cold-bridging’ was an obvious concern that had to be addressed within the floor package design. One of the benefits of a quality raised access floor system is that it creates a very adaptable void which can hide a multiple of building service equipment whilst allowing vital components to be attended to with a minimum of disruption for servicing or repair. The Cold Bridging was particularly important as the void beneath the floor was also being used as part of a natural air distribution and ventilation system. Having carried out the necessary thermal loss calculations, a bespoke insulation build up was integrated into the raised access flooring system taking into account its position within the building and its eventual floor covering. The Concrete Floor Slab was covered with a waterproof membrane over which a rigid insulation slab was added further topped by a vapour barrier and finished off with a cementitious board system which is robust enough to take the weight of the mechanically fixed recycled steel pedestals supporting the floor surface.
As Neil Burrows sales Manager of MERO-SCHMIDLIN (UK) PLC Raised Access Floor Division explains, having a car park beneath the building presented several challenges:
“The void presented several thermal insulation issues and the use of calcium sulphate hollow floorboard laid onto the insulation as part of the Raised Access Flooring System offered the best solution.
The possibility of cold bridging from the car park beneath was addressed by the architects with 100mm high density insulation being fitted by Mero Schmidlin. The insulation however must not be compressed by any flexing (deflection) of the sub-floor and Mero-Schmidlin carried out extensive levels of testing on this issue.
In order to avoid any installation, product performance conflicts with regard to warranty, the main contractors were very keen for one company to complete the whole package and MERO-SCHMIDLIN were very happy to be able to meet the challenge.”
Having dealt with the cold- bridging, the void beneath the flooring was again implemented as a substantial component of the BREEAM aspirations. With modern building design the trend has long been against the use of air conditioning with a preference in using Natural Ventilation. This development makes full use of the many benefits provided by the raised access flooring but does involve a high level of monitoring during the design and installation of the flooring. Parts of the floor void are used to provide a Plenum through which the air is passed before re-entering the structure through strategically placed floor vents. It is of course vitally important that both the system itself and the floor panels are airtight so they are fitted with neoprene seals to minimise any air leakage which might compromise the ventilation performance. The system is subject to pressure testing at various stages in construction but it is also paramount that the supports are strategically placed and the boards above them do not flex. Any movement could damage the seals within the support boards or indeed the flooring finish itself.
As part of the sustainability focussed design the WWF HQ uses cowls within the roof system to draw in air and the flooring system to re-distribute it.
The Living Planet Centre has a mezzanine floor around the edge of the building leaving the central section clear which allows the roof-lights to illuminate both the mezzanine and the ground floor. The mezzanine floor also features the Mero Raised Access Floor System with a similar void for services and ventilation, this has been designed to counteract both vibration and any sound which may pass through the structure. In both cases the steel pedestals support a steel framed floor panel system keeping the structure rigid to avoid compromising the acoustics, thermal insulation or indeed the ventilation.
One of the many benefits of raised access flooring is that to the casual observer it appears to be just a ‘normal’ floor and its ability to carry a complete range of flooring finish options only enhances that view. In addition to heating, cooling, providing various routes for a multitude of building services wiring, data cables, pipework and trunking the floor void could also provide both access and air, vital components of any fire. It is then of course imperative that areas under the floor are able to be isolated, not only to prevent the fire spreading but also to avoid compromising the floor supports and components.
Working with an organisation such as the WWF, the brief was always going to be sustainability lead. With the flooring system The Mero System met, or indeed exceeded, the brief both in its component sourcing in addition to some of the floor coverings used as part of the flooring package. The adjustable support pedestals contain a percentage of recycled content within the components and the two types of floor panels were chipboard or calcium sulphate both of which feature high levels of recycled content within their composite construction. All of the timber content was sourced by MERO-SCHMIDLIN via a fully certified Forest Stewardship Council supplier under FSC Guidelines and a full FSC Chain Of Custody certification provided. This was a pre-requisite at tender stage and was vociferously monitored by Willmott Dixon during the whole construction process. The building has a variety of floor coverings to suit the needs of particular areas and much of the reception zone has a Strata Italian Merazzo composite ceramic type tile which has very high levels of recycled material and was factory applied by MERO-SCHMIDLIN.
The Mero Raised Access Flooring Systems.
As already explained the Raised Access Flooring System has become an integral part of any modern commercial building due to its versatility in providing a multitude of additional benefits over than ‘just providing a floor’. The benefits of the Raised Access Floors within the MERO range are by no means limited to the above salient points. These systems have been specifically designed to speed up the floor application so that the disruption to the building site is kept to an absolute minimum. The obvious problem with any floor is the fact that various trades need constant access to other parts of the building site and indeed may require heavy plant within the newly installed floor areas to complete the internal finishes. Each system has been specifically designed to minimise and possibly avoid completely, any ‘Wet Trades’ such as screeding and possibly grouting. Many of the floor coverings can be factory bonded to the floor panels making sure that areas are bought back into use as soon as possible. The MERO-SCHMIDLIN team can advise on the correct floor protection system to take into account both the covering and any heavy plant that may be required during construction or ongoing maintenance. MERO-SCHMIDLIN can also supply a Hollow Floor System which incorporates underfloor heating within its design. The support boards can either be Chipboard or Calcium Sulphate both of which offer a robust and sustainable option in meeting any BREEAM aspirations. The Mero Design Team realise that any time saved on site can offer very significant cost savings for the project making the Mero Systems an essential component within any high quality floor system. The ability of the system to level any concrete floor slab without the need for screeds to be pumped into the work area is obviously a huge advantage. With the escalation of high rise buildings now in planning throughout the UK, this advantage has been widely taken up with the MERO Raised Access Flooring system recently being used on the 50th story of a recent London complex to avoid pumping floor screeds to that height. The Living Planet Centre is a stunning building and not only meets the demanding aspirations of its client but also sits very comfortably within a very challenging site.
More info on the project can be viewed on the MERO-SCHMIDLIN (UK) PLC website
A four page pdf Case Study can be downloaded here 4 Page RAF Case Study WWF HQ Woking
The project also featured in Greenbuild Magazine MERO-Green-Build-4pp-Web-Version (1)
See more on the project at Hopkins Architects http://www.hopkins.co.uk/projects/1/151
Photography by Paul Scott – Front Elevation www.frontelevation.co.uk